By Shuhei Yano
A closer look at the joint statement issued after the Japan-U.S. summit last month on starting new bilateral tariff talks reveals a clear discrepancy between the two governments. The version released by the U.S. side shows that the envisioned new trade agreement will cover not only goods, but also services and other sectors. There is no mention of the Trade Agreement on Goods (TAG) found in the Japanese version. It is believed that the Japanese side is highlighting the newly coined acronym TAG for the sake of consistency with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s past statements, so that the new agreement will not be viewed as the free trade agreement (FTA) envisioned by the U.S. that will cover broad sectors.
In the joint statement issued by the U.S. side, “trade agreement” is rendered in initial caps, but “goods” is in lower case and not emphasized. This is followed by “as well as,” citing services and other key areas along with goods. This was translated into Japanese by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo as a “Japan-U.S. trade agreement covering goods, services, and other key sectors.”
On the other hand, the Japanese government’s version talks about bilateral trade agreement covering only goods, using the term TAG that is not used by the U.S. side. This expression indicates that the services and other key sectors are not included and will be discussed in separate talks. The English version of the statement released by the Japanese government is almost the same as the U.S.’s version.
Tokyo University Prof. Junji Nakagawa, an expert on trade-related international treaties, points out, “The English version of the statement released by the Japanese and U.S. sides has the word ‘on’ before goods and other areas. This should be interpreted to mean that goods and other sectors are included.”
Abe has so far explained at the Diet and on other occasions that Japan has not entered into preparatory talks with the U.S. on an FTA and has asserted that the TAG in the Japanese version of the statement “is not a comprehensive FTA.”